Live review: Celtic Connections: Rachel Sermanni, Colin Macleod at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, 31/1/14

994112_10152185824084328_1672380283_nA Rachel Sermanni gig is my cup of tea, this gig being held in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum adds a couple of sugar lumps of curiosity and excitement.

The stage is in front of the Kelvingrove’s famous organ, flanked by chandeliers, sheltered under the elaborate arched roof, stuffed elephants to the left and floating heads to the right; it’s unique and magical but – gosh – I wish there were candles.

Support tonight comes from bejumpered and belonghaired singer Colin Macleod, who also comes in handy as electric guitar/ lap steel collaborator.

He plays tracks from The Anchor EP as well as one Boy Who Trapped the Sun song; highlights include gently sung new single ‘California’ and ‘Easy Way Out’.

Sermanni is invited on stage for the latter, which has a sweet, simple lullaby quality and is incredibly catchy.

Macleod introduces a cover of a Bruce Springsteen classic, saying that it is the kind of song he wished he’d written and as the opening sounds of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ are heard there is a murmur of recognition from the audience; it’s interesting to hear the song in a new light having never noticed the song’s sadness before.

He plays ‘Home’ from his Boy Who Trapped The Sun days, which sounds especially ballsy in the classical surroundings, the strings of the acoustic guitar being satisfyingly pushed to their volume limit.

Throughout the set, Sermanni and pianist Jen Austin have been deeking out from the pillars of the hall.

As the set finishes, Sermanni skips behind the Celtic Connections backdrop to congratulate her friend.

The sound in the Kelvingrove is great and possibly the clearest, loudest and most consistent I’ve heard at Celtic Connections.

Sermanni jokes eloquently about the notes floating up to the roof and bumping into notes from a few songs ago in some sort of heaven for sounds.

New single ‘Everything Changes’ is completely beautiful and my song of the night, the high pitch sounds so melancholy echoing through the gallery.

Electric guitar is added well for certain songs and gives the line up more of a band feeling.

‘The Fog’, from album Under Mountains, is revved up tonight, dark and devilish as it was intended to be.

Sermanni can be quite famously mellow but don’t underestimate her depths: “I hold my hands up/ my bloody hands up/ mercy, mercy I’ve been caught/ lying with my darkest thought,” is sung with relish.

Similarly edgy is ‘Black Hole’ from last year’s Boatshed Sessions, it’s a jaunty, unsettling number that Sermanni clearly delights in singing and allows for some jazzy piano.

On their way to sound heaven, the first notes and words of sweet ‘Waltz’ are greeted with happy recognition from the crowd as the audience ‘whoops’ for the shy, young romantic tale.

The encore includes ‘To a Fox’ and an Adam Holmes drinking song (“won’t you come out drinking with me, with me/ won’t you come out drinking with me/ For my eyes still glow and I’ve money to blow, won’t you come out drinking with me”).

It’s fun and modest to choose another act’s song and a lovely, uniting end to the night.

Words: Leonie Colmar

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